Sōtatsu: Making Waves


TreesPrecision, variety, and a remarkable composition are features of this I’nen seal painting. Lined up across a gold-foil ground are all types of evergreens (associated with vitality and longevity)—not in full display but as if viewed from a window. Painters of the Kanō school developed the genre of “standing trees” (ryūboku zu), but Trees differs greatly from Kanō examples. The painter clearly was aware of the striking effects of green pigment against gold foil. His powerful diagonals and bold color recall large Sōtatsu screens, which were perhaps inspired by smaller-scale decorative paper schemes. While some I’nen-style plant paintings fill the entire space, this composition reverts to an older painting style characterized by a tight geometry and a constricted sense of abundance. Similar to Dragons and Clouds, it is hard to determine the left and right screens based on the seal position, because they can be displayed either way.

Master of the I’nen Seal (1600–30), Sōtatsu school
Japan, mid-17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens
Ink, colors, and gold on paper
Freer Gallery of Art, F1962.30-31

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